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Bishop Taylor, in 1647, ably took up this subject, in his liberty of prophesying, as did Dr. Owen in 1649, in an appendix to a sermon; and gradually those better principles spread and prevailed, to which we owe so much of our present religious liberty and national prosperity, and comparatively few of those evils which were anticipated even by good men have arisen.
How little has intolerance done, even when most successful, for the real advantage of the intolerant church. Suppose such a church puts down all opposition, what is it but gaining an unrestrained liberty to be worldly, careless, irreligious and ignorant ? A deathlike sleep comes upon such a church; the glory of its best days are departed; it produces no more its giant divines; it suffers itself more than it inflicts, and multitudes of souls perish through the negligence which its very success has procured.
The trials and speeches of the Regicides exhibit an astonishing compound of profession of religion, selfconceit, arrogance, and ignorance. But to attempt to charge their guilt upon even the Puritan religion, is as absurd as to charge the Reformation with the crimes of the men of Munster. As there always have been hypocrites on the one hand, so on the other there have always been wild enthusiasts, who have disgraced all religion. As Buchanan remarks, - Fanaticism proves nothing against religion. It is one of its diseases; and implies no more that there is no such thing as religion, than madness that there is no reason, or distemper that there is no health. God permits such things to be a stumbling block to those who desire it, that they may have a plausible excuse for infidelity and irreligion, and manifest that inward hatred which they bear to religion itself. Can any side consent to abide by the consequences of an opponent's giving the faults of individuals on that side as the character of the class ? Where would be every class if this partial rule were to be our criterion ?
1 Edward's Gangræna published in 1646, gives a horrible picture of the state of the Sects in that time. He was a rigid Presbyterian, and very bitter against those who differed from that system, His statements cannot therefore be trusted.
Various attempts have been made for uniting the dissenters and the church of England in one communion without success. The Hampton Court Conference was held for this purpose in 1603,' and the Savoy Conference in 1661. ?
On the accession of William III. measures taken for effecting a comprehension with dissenters, both by the king, the parliament, and the convocation.3 Political views, and dissentions, and remaining suspicions, were the main impediments to the accomplishment of this noble measure, and thus the good men who from time to time projected it, were unable to effect one of the most desirable and 'apparently at these times practicable plans for uniting the great body of dissenters in the communion of one church. We say apparently practicable, and perhaps even so use too strong a term. For who can look back and fix his eye on any era, and say, this was a millenial day in the church, when Rom. xiv. and xv. were clearly understood by both parties, and were practically embodied in their spirit?
See Barlow's Account preserved in the Phænix, Vol. II. p. 139. 2. The particulars of this were given in various Tracts published at the time, collected in one volume, intitled, the History of Nonconformity. See also Collier's Ecclesiastical History, Vol. II. p. 878—886.
3 An account is given of these in Nicholl's Defence of the Church of England, Calamy's Life of Baxter, Birch's Life of Tillotson, and several Pamphlets published on the occasion, as Vox Cleri, Vox Regis et Regni, and Answers.
Until that era, however disunion may and must be lamented, the evil. will remain : when shall it be for ever lost in the blessed reign of perfect knowledge and perfect love?
1 My friend Mr. Budd's remarks here so entirely concurs with my own views, that I gladly quote them.
I am most willing to admit, that dissent has not been unattended with advantage. It has been one means of preserving a holy seed among us, and we are greatly indebted to it for the maintenance of our civil and religious liberties; but then it should be equally admitted, and truth, I think, demands the admission, that these are not advantages flowing from Dissent, but rather expressions of divine mercy and love, the gracious providence of God overruling it for the production of good. The evil of disunion is necessary and certain: it is felt as a practical evil in most of our parishes throughout the land. It separates man from man, and Christian from Christian; it prevents concert, and paralyses charitable effort, by distracting both our designs and performances, wastes our means, and reduces the order and moral agency of our admirable parochial system to confusion and inefficiency. Could all the decidedly religious in a parish combine with the minister in religious and charitable effort in resisting abounding iniquity, and encouraging piety and order both in public and private, this communion of saints would, under God, exhibit so real and vital an excellence in Christianity, that the blessed result could not but be a general conviction of its excellence. It is the Devil's own maxim-“Divide and conquer.” His grand object is to foster disunion, and to separate that he may destroy. When will our eyes be open to the wide-wasting malignity of this mischief? When will Churchmen aim at the largest comprehension, by correcting a discipline which they confess to be imperfect, by forbearing to insist on ceremonies, which they allow to be indifferent, and by reforming abuses which they admit to be scandalous ? And when will Dissenters abate excessive pretensions, give Churchmen credit for honest intentions, and while they admit the doctrinal excellencies of our Church in essentials, forbear to magnify with uncharitable triumph her imperfections in cir. cumstantials? I have no hope that these evils will find any qualification in the means which have been hitherto adopted to correct them. It is not in legislative liberality, or in a renewed
The more wise and holy of the Puritans must not, because they lived in the same circle, be charged with the faults of the more extravagant: we might in that case charge even the disciples of Christ with the iniquity of Judas Iscariot. The Nonconformists, after the restoration, were however much more generally loyal than the Puritans of the Commonwealth. Time had dissipated false theories, and shown Christians the danger of interfering with this world's politics.
The style of the writers of this age was unhappy : perplexed, mixed with various languages, great quaintness, endless divisions, and the general sense often lost sight of in giving all the meanings of the various words which composed it. Bishop Andrews is said, by his quaintness, to have led the way to the departure from the simplicity of the style of the Reformers, and Donne and many others followed in his steps.
Some of the leading characters demand more particular notice. That of Dr. Owen stands eminent in various respects. His devotional, and practical, and expository works are an invaluable treasure of divinity. It does not appear to me, that he took a wise or a Christian course, with regard to government; ministers should never direct the politics of this world. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth:
conference at Hampton Court or the Savoy, or in volumes of controversial Discussion, that I conceive the remedy will originate ; these will either he superseded as unnecessary, or will be the consequence of that better spirit they are undertaken to promote," He then refers to the practical blessedness of the communion of saints, felt throughout the land as the only effective means of uniformity.''
1 See his work on Baptism, p. 282, 283.
the ministers objects are higher. His character, and his decision to support the Protectorate must have had influence in maintaining that usurpation. The defence set up for him falls short of a justification of his conduct, and it is better at once to acknowledge what is deemed the error of an eminent servant of God, than justify him throughout. His sermon after the king's death would tend to strengthen Cromwell's hand, and he evidently had a close intimacy with
With this serious drawback on his character, and with the exception of his books in support of independency, which occupy but a small proportion of his voluminous works, we freely avow, that his writings are eminently spiritual, devotional,
nd edifying. He is full of Biblical learning, sound exposition of doctrine, acuteness, and information. His controversial writings against the Socinians and Papists, on the question of justification, on the Jewish die Questions, Sabbath, &c. are valuable and important. There is hardly any modern controversy that he has le not well-digested and furnished matter for the defence of the truth. He gives expanded and rich views of the fullness of the gospel. His book on the 130th Psalm, is one of the fullest displays of evangelical forgiveness that we have ever seen. The Christian familiar with the conflicting exercises of experimental religion will be sensible of its value. It was a real service to the Church to have his works collected in the 28' vols. 8vo. and they will furnish the Student with ample defences of the gospel against its various enemies. He was too minute and systematic in his distinctions for the largeness of scriptural truth; but
he enters into the deepest recesses of the heart, shows 9. clearly the evangelical principles by which sîn is to